Originally published in The Mandarin, James Judge gives some helpful tips and hints for getting through the silly season #holidays #dutyofcare #officeparty #sillyseason
The time of year leading into the holiday season means different things to different people. For many it’s a chance to reunite with family and possibly some travel. For those who don’t have a family or who have recently lost a loved one, the holiday season can be a time of great sadness.
Whether staying at work or going away, here are some suggestion to use the next few weeks more effectively and hopefully sidestep some silly-season stumbles.
Planning for the holiday season
Whatever plans and feelings are accompanying the impending holiday season for you, it’s a reasonable assumption that a lot of people in the workforce will be feeling pretty tired, perhaps accompanied with a sense of urgency to finish off important projects before the holidays begin. Once the holidays themselves arrive you can be sure another set of stressors: be it indolent teens, cantankerous in-laws or present buying predicaments — may make the prospect of returning to work a joy by January.
Be grateful you have actually (almost) made it through another calendar year and remember to thank everyone who in whatever way helped you get there. If you are a manager, it’s useful to constructively and thoughtfully use this time to acknowledge work well done and the challenges the team has successfully surmounted. If you had some setbacks, take time to think about those as well. How might they serve to teach you lessons in how you might approach things differently next year?
Where possible, think about leaving the workplace with your team for a half a day to discuss and reflect on matters in a semi-structured fashion around a social event like a lunch. If you do this consistently you are also building up a positive practice that can contribute to team cohesion and a more positive workplace culture.
A word on ‘non-denominational, seasonal gift-giving.’ Remember that many cultures don’t celebrate Christmas so present buying should not be forced on anyone. If you are in a workplace where people are participating, some guidelines around what is appropriate can be very useful.
Plan ahead for the period
Think about what else you can do to help make the time people take off as useful as possible and to assist them replenish their energy levels for the coming year. If workloads will naturally diminish in your workplace, it might be a good time to remind people who have a lot of accumulated leave to take some time off. For those who have recently lost a loved one, think about what services there are that offer appropriate support that you might suggest to them.
Some workplaces will need to function through the entire holiday season (and for those working in emergency services or health – may be even busier). If this is the case for you, think about fair access to leave and the provision of overtime. You should certainly communicate what is expected of those people who are still working and any changes to process that might be put in place to cope with either increases or decreases in workloads. Everyone’s situation may be a little different but allowing some additional flexibility might make sense if things aren’t actually busy.
Don’t forget that if service levels are to be reduced or wait times are likely to increase, also communicate that to clients.
Beware the booze-up
Part of an employer’s duty of care is to take reasonable steps to identify and reduce potential risks to its employees. The consumption of alcohol heightens the threshold for what is required in relation to take reasonable steps. It is for this reason that the usual responsibilities and rules around acceptable behaviours should be re-stated at this time.
This doesn’t mean you can’t let your hair down but avoid open bars and definitely don’t serve alcohol without making food and non-alcoholic drinks available. If someone does become intoxicated you may need to step in to intervene. Designating someone to keep an eye on this might be a very good idea.
Just because a party or event is conducted ‘off-site’ doesn’t mean that normal workplace policies and procedures are waived. Those relating to bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment have been found to apply even to unplanned workplace events. That’s why it’s a good idea to state start and finish times for any event and if you are a manager or organiser, remind staff that any other events are not authorised or official. If you are having an event out of town or where people will have to commute, think about organising transport options for staff whether that’s minibus, taxi, Uber or car pooling.
It may sound pernickety but actually putting all this in writing to everyone prior to the event should be normal protocol. The danger of social media related disasters can also be allayed by ensuring everyone is reminded of your policy here. If you are working in HR note that not taking action on legitimate complaints promptly can have negative consequences so know the policy and act on any complaints swiftly.